Fifty years elapsed between the end of Alien, when Ripley entered cryostasis for the long journey home aboard the Nostromo’s shuttle, to the beginning of Aliens when she was de-thawed. Fortunately for us though, only one week has elapsed since we first delved into the thirty-two year history of H.R. Giger’s iconic Alien’s computer and video game history. Now, I’ve de-thawed the fish fingers and chips, put the kettle on and sat down to carry on our epic journey into gaming history. Are you ready? Here comes the bug hunt.
If you recall, we began last week with the very first Alien game, an Atari 2600 cartridge from 1982, and carried on through another Alien, three Aliens and a couple of arcade cabinets (including the 1993 light-gun arcade machine (Alien 3: The Gun), to the 1993-1994 deluge of Alien 3 games, all from the one developer, Probe Entertainment (with help from Eden Entertainment Software). These finally dried up with the 1994 release of the SEGA Game Gear version. We also noted that 1993 was the first time the Alien and his 20th Century Fox stablemate the Predator appeared in a game together, which is where we’re going to get the facehugger egg rolling from now. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the one, the only… Aliens vs Predator – on the Super Nintendo!
Looks like more of a schoolyard tussle than a fight to the death between two of the universe’s most fearsome killing machines.
The first ever AvP game was developed by then-new Japanese developer Jorudan for Activision. This was only Jorudan’s third game since their 1990 debut with Battle Bull for the Game Boy (released in ’91 in North America). I remember playing the SNES AvP in college on my own SNES, and one thing that stands out in my memory is the Predator’s enormous, Frisbee-like ‘Smart Disc’. It’s another side-scroller, but with the Predator as the playable character, and was more of a beat ‘em-up than a Pulse Rifle shoot ‘em-up. Visually, the game recalled the chunky, colourful graphics of Konami’s 1990 Aliens cabinet. The backgrounds were a bit dreary and ‘grim’, but the Aliens were all of the ‘It’s a purple one, so it attacks differently from the blue one’ variety, while the Preds were as well-coordinated as the Spring edition of Vogue. Interestingly, many of the Aliens in the game bore a striking resemblance to the Kenner toy line of the time, with Gorilla Aliens, Shark Aliens, and so on. The SNES AvP is also remarkable for doing something no other entry in the game or film franchises had done since the original Alien film in 1979 – showing a cocooned human transforming into an egg (and this we only finally saw in a deleted scene from the 2003 Director’s Cut).
Apart from SEGA’s previously-mentioned Alien 3: The Gun lightgun arcade machine, 1993 gave us only one other Alien appearance, in Activision’s Game Boy title, Alien vs Predator: The Last of His Clan. The graphics were not too bad as Game Boy games go, featuring large, detailed characters in a side-scrolling platformer that was a different game entirely than their SNES AvP, although it still used the same box art.
C’mere and give uncle Alien a big hug!
The final thought to consider here is how the last few years’ worth of Alien arcade games and console titles are all thematically very similar – colourful, stylized Aliens based on various animals and other weird things – and how much they have in common, at least visually, with the toys and the comics and cartoon spin-offs from the toy line. The 1987 MSX Aliens was the first of these kinds of Alien games, and the 1994 Capcom arcade cabinet the last (more on that in a minute). From all the evidence, it would seem that this seven-year stretch of colourful, sanitized ‘nonsense’ was partly the result of a Japanese influence – from Square in ’87 to Capcom, Konami and SEGA’s arcade games through to the Jorudan-developed SNES AvP and Capcom AvP cabinet in 1994. Mostly though, it seems to have come from the Alien and Predator franchises’ wider dissemination into popular culture, initially through the Dark Horse comics series, then through the insane Operation: Aliens cartoon and tie-in Kenner toy line. The cartoon had originally been planned by Fox as an Alien 3 promo tool (!), but then dropped before full production could begin. However, they’d already planned, with Kenner (Palitoy in the UK) a line of toys and games and kids’ stuff, and it was too late to change the packaging for some of these items before they went to market. The toys’ release was then timed to coincide with the SNES AvP game.
At any rate, 1994 marked the beginning of a new era in Alien gaming, and one which leads us directly to where we stand today with Aliens: Colonial Marines and Alien: Isolation. It’s a journey which also very much eschewed the more out-there elements of the last few years of gaming, so if you’re particularly fond of the Bat Alien, said goodbye to him now. Goodbye, Bat Alien!